Why people like ‘Dirty Duterte’ | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Why people like ‘Dirty Duterte’

Did you like the movie “Dirty Harry” starring Clint Eastwood?

Did you like its sequel, “Magnum Force,” as well as the two other lesser sequels? Did you like the vigilante series where Charles Bronson was an architect by day and a vigilante by night who chased and killed hardened criminals whom the police and the law could not stop?


If you did, along with millions of other moviegoers (which is why there were so many sequels of the original movies), then you must also like Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. The real-life mayor is supposedly doing what the two movie heroes did on the make-believe silver screen: kill hardened criminals that escape through the fingers of the law.

Which is probably why Duterte ranks high in the surveys. Although he is new to national politics and comes from a faraway city, he ranks third in the opinion polls, behind Vice President Jejomar Binay (who has been campaigning for the presidency since 2010) and Sen. Grace Poe (topnotcher in the last senatorial elections), and tying for third place with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the presumptive administration party candidate for president next year.


How else can Duterte’s unexpected high rating be explained? The people like him because they are tired of criminals and corrupt public officials, and he talks tough against them. He threatens to kill them himself, although he claims he has not killed anyone yet. But criminals are dying in Davao. So who is doing the executions?

Davaoeños say it is the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a vigilante group supposedly acting under orders from Mayor Duterte.

Duterte really has repeatedly threatened to kill criminals to make his city safe. But it is not only talk, as in so many other politicians. He has proven it in his city. Davao has been ranked by an international body as the ninth safest city in the world. Manila is ranked 359th, with a crime index of 67.78. Crime levels of between 60 and 80 are considered high, while a crime index of 20 to 40 is rated low. Davao has a crime index of only 20.13.

How does Duterte do it in Davao? He talks tough against criminals. “Leave Davao or die!” And about 1,000 criminals did die violent deaths in Davao and left the city inside coffins, according to human rights groups.

Duterte is in hot water for admitting a link to the DDS in a media interview. The DDS is supposedly executing criminals who refuse to reform and whom the law cannot put in jail.

But now he claims that the DDS to which he claimed to have links stands for the Davao Development System, not the Davao Death Squad. And he is challenging human rights groups to go to Davao and prove in court that he had ordered the killings.

In a recent interview, Duterte said that if he bags the presidency (in which he denies any interest), he would execute not only the criminals but also the corrupt. “I’ll throw them into Manila Bay to fatten the fish, the criminals and the corrupt together, so it will be in just one fell swoop,” he said.


So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t the top problem of the Philippines rampant criminality and corruption by public officials? Huge amounts of taxpayer money are being stolen by public officials through overpriced and ghost projects, and, if the suspicions are true, bribes for certain lawmakers. One official accused of corruption is even running for president. And the police and the courts seem helpless against criminals. Citizens live in fear because of the rampant criminality that the government is unable to stop.

Even when criminals are caught by the police and charged in court, they remain out of prison to continue their criminal activities because the courts are too slow in meting justice. And even when they are already in prison, they continue to commit crime from inside because of corrupt prison officials and guards. Look at the drug lords recently caught living luxuriously in their own kubol inside the national penitentiary, and continuing the drug trade even behind bars because corrupt or negligent prison officials and guards allow them to. How do you solve a problem like that?

In the Eastwood and Bronson movies, the heroes execute the criminals themselves. The law is helpless against them, so the heroes take the law into their own hands. And millions of people liked what they did and came back to the movie houses to see again and again how they meted justice on criminals against whom the law is helpless.

In “Magnum Force,” a police officer formed a death squad composed of motorcycle cops. In the opening sequence, gang lords were acquitted by a court and were gleefully leaving the premises when a police officer stopped their car. The gangsters thought he was only after a bribe.

“Give him some dollars,” one said, suggesting that it was something they had done before to other cops. But the cop pulled out his Magnum and shot them all.

The movie audience applauded. That is what they are doing with Duterte.

In the first “Dirty Harry” film, a serial killer could not be imprisoned. He was always evading conviction through technicalities in the law. So Harry taunted him into trying to shoot him. When he did, Harry killed him in self-defense.

Moviegoers liked that, too. And that’s probably also why they like Duterte.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Davao City, Davao Death Squad, Dirty Harry, Rodrigo Duterte
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